As the spot-fixing controversy gets murkier, legal experts favoured legalising betting on sport to generate revenue. However, all felt there should be reasonable restrictions to check possible misuse of its legal tag.
At present betting in sports is illegal in India except on horse-racing. In the absence of a fixed law to prosecute the alleged violators, probe agencies invoke the Public Gambling Act of 1867 that carries maximum imprisonment of three-months and a fine of R200. In the recent arrests the Delhi Police have also booked the accused for cheating and breach of trust under the IPC to make the case stronger.
According to senior Supreme Court advocate Nidesh Gupta a KPMG survey assessed the unofficial betting industry in India to be around R300,000 crore. “If this industry is regulated, it can bring in high revenue to the exchequer,” he says.
Senior advocate Dushyant Dave feels legalising betting would end the existing parallel economy that is encouraging corruption and mafia. “There are enough regulations on use. Those who impose don’t even follow them. The hypocrisy about morality needs to be broken,” he adds.
Voicing Dave’s concern, advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan says: “Betting on sports should become legal in India much like the UK and certain states of the US where there are legal betting agencies. This relaxation can be extended to other games of skill such as cricket, football and tennis.”
Senior Supreme Court advocate Vikas Singh, however, had a word of caution: “The law to be brought in should provide the checks as it could be open to misuse.”
Gupta agrees and says: “It runs the risk of wasting an entire generation of people who are more amenable to engaging in such activities on knowing it’s not an offence.” Senior advocate Aman Lekhi feels legalising betting would mean to indulge people having black money and give them an opportunity to bring it back into the system.
Would a legal tag to betting end the menace of match or spot-fixing?
“No” says Dave. Sankaranarayanan also wonders whether it would keep the underworld out of bookmaking. “Seems difficult,” he says.